Participants at the Independent Living Seminar.
There was a time, should someone ask me to name great men, I would have rattled off names of larger-than-life military leaders throughout history who commanded huge armies to conquer vast territories. That perception was seriously flawed. The greatest men are those that achieved more with less. I had the privilege to be acquainted with not only two of such great people but fifteen more of them recently.
Participants of the Independent Living Workshop.
The Independent Living Seminar & Workshop was the most amazing five days that radically changed all that I knew about being a Person with Disabilities (PWD). The concept of Independent Living (IL) was something I had not expected. It is not about being able to do all the things by myself. Rather, it is about choices – the choice to determine how I want to live my life, either by myself or with the help of others. One hundred PWDs and people involved with PWDs attended the one day seminar on September 10. Sixteen PWDs participated in the four-day live-in workshop from September 11 to 14. Each sixteeen of us suffers from some form of physical disabilities, most more severely than me, and had come from all parts of Malaysia to attend this workshop. Travelling is always a problem for PWDs and it was this determination that really inspired me.
(L – r) Resource persons Ms. Aiko Tsutsumi and Ms. Hiroko Akiyama.
The two resource persons were the most remarkable role models I could have ever asked for. Ms. Hiroko Akiyama is totally paralysed and needs round-the-clock assistance. Ms. Aiko Tsutsumi is a paraplegia and was always very animated in her presentations. Both resource persons took turns to conduct each day’s sessions that lasted from 9.00am to 5.00pm with breaks in between for lunch and tea. Each session was an eye-opener because all that was shared with us was something we have never learnt before. Below is a brief bio of each resource person:
Ms. Hiroko Akiyama, Director of Hino IL Centre
Worked as a consultant on IL for JICA in Thailand, and has conducted training courses in the Philippines and Korea. Has published several books on IL and peer-counseling in Japanese.
Ms. Aiko Tsutsumi, Vice President of Machida Human Network (IL Centre)
Published several books on IL, peer-counseling, and issues on Eugenic protection law in Japanese. She was also in charge of several training programmes on IL for international participants.
During one session at Independent Living Workshop.
I had my first revelation in the vision I had just before Mum passed on. That changed my spiritual conviction and opened up a new path in my life based on the teachings of Jesus. This workshop is the second revelation. It has given me a new direction and a sense of purpose in my crusade for disability issues in Malaysia. Over the next twelve months, the sixteen of us participants will be embarking on a series of awareness campaigns and seminars on Independent Living throughout Malaysia. We have pledged to support each other to realise one common dream – to establish the first Independent Living Centre in Malaysia within three years. This roadshow will be the initial step in our ambition to create the first of many Independent Living Centres here.